The Red Knight has a passel of squires. A lot. It’s an open secret among free lances that the Red Knight keeps a large company. How well do they get along?
In my notes, I’ve got vague summaries of their timelines. They’re minor characters. How much background do they need?
Well… About that.
The first step was to take a writing detour. I worked through a separate story (15,000 words, "Shoemaker’s Row") centered on one of the squires. There’s a story-per-squire backstory book that can follow the initial four books in the series.
The sidebar effort at a coherent stand-alone story helped crystallize two of the squires. The backstory of two more squires is an oblique reference in that story. A bunch more have a common story — they’ve known each other for years. Another bunch actually attempt to tell their back story in Book I, The Forge. (Nothing ever works out, so only parts of their story emerge.) It also helped me tease apart the overall world in a way that let me tell stories using only selected elements.
The second step is a vague sense of “How would this scene look in the trailer on Netflix?” or “Would this be a suitable scene for the cover?” or “If this was a page in the graphic novel version, what would it look like?”
Location. Action. Lighting. Noise. And. What face(s) are they making? What needs to be shot in the close-up? What do I want the artist to draw?
About half-way through the revision of Book II, The Sword and The Crystal, it popped into my head that there’s a simmering beef among some of the squires. They can be sorted into three camps based on a war their parents suffered through. Some squires were on the victorious side, some were on the losing side, and some were in another part of the kingdom.
The “pulled out of context into the trailer” is an appealing thing that flits through my head while I’m writing. I like the idea that individual scenes in isolation have misleading elements that can be emphasized. A clever director could almost piece together a wrong story-line from selected beats pulled from larger scenes.
This isn’t a Big Thing — it’s not the thematic conflict between the mage and the various temples who want him dead or forgotten. It’s not the story arc of the Outlanders attacking the Kingdom of the East. It’s not the chapter-level conflict of getting to the mage tower alive, or getting out of the Outlands alive, or avoiding getting murdered by assassins in the Earl’s company. None of that.
It’s a kind of decorative trim conflict. A galling unresolved issue that never works itself out. It’s a color palette used to paint some scenes.